If I’m not careful, I could have an entire garden bursting with dill plants. That’s because I let them go to seed. And, well, dill is one of my favorite herbs. However, if I time it right and collect my dill seeds, I don’t get as much of a dense thicket that requires thinning to make room for other crops. Believe me, if you don’t snip off those dried umbels, you will be doing a LOT of thinning! In this article, I’m going to share some tips on saving your dill seeds for future planting and how you can also add them to your spice rack for cooking.
Waiting for dill seeds to form
Once your dill plants start to flower, they will attract a TON of beneficial insects to the garden. My plants are always abuzz with bees and other beneficial insects. Ladybugs, tachinid flies, green lacewings, and hoverflies, which help to control aphid populations, all love dill flowers. The flowers stick around for a while and take some time to mature, so you need to be patient while the seeds form.
You must leave the flowers in the garden in order for them to form seeds. Wait until the seeds turn from green to brown in color. The umbels will start to turn inwards towards each other, so that the seeds are in little clumps. At this point, they’re still fairly stuck and won’t scatter in the garden. This is a good time for harvesting
Collecting dill seeds off your plants
To harvest dill seed, wait until the seeds are dried and brown. I use my herb scissors and snip the flower stalk a few inches from the base of the flower. I then pop those dried fireworks upside down in a paper bag to dry. Store the bag in a dry area for a week or two. Once the seeds have fallen into the bag (you may need to give the stalks a little shake for encouragement), pour them onto a tray. You may need to remove bits of stem here and there.
Use a funnel to pour the tray’s contents into a jar without spilling any. To avoid moisture, store seeds in an airtight container for long-term storage. I store mine in a short mason jar. They are stored in a dark cupboard, away from sunlight, like my other spices. Later on you can decide if you’re going to cook with them or if you’re going to save some for next year’s garden (or both!).
Reasons your dill plant may not produce seed
There are a few reasons why you may not see seeds on your herb plant at the end of the growing season. The first possibility is if black swallowtail caterpillars consume all those tiny yellow flowers that grow at the end of the umbels produced by a flowering dill plant—or if the caterpillars eat the plants down completely!
Aphids can also wreak havoc. But a quick spray from the hose each day can minimize the damage.
Of course if you snip all those lovely dill flowers for bouquets, you won’t be seeing any seeds develop later in the season.
Planting harvested dill seeds
Dill (Anethum graveolens) is one of those plants that prefers to be direct-sown. Disturb its roots by transferring it from a pot, and it may get a little fussy. But, once it becomes established, in the spot where the seed was planted, dill is a pretty hardy plant.
Sow dill seeds in well-draining soil in an area that gets full sun. The seeds left in my raised bed over the winter germinate in early spring, depending on the winter we’ve had. I’ll head out regularly to check for that telltale feathery foliage. But if you’re waiting to direct sow seeds, wait until the soil temperatures have warmed up and all threat of frost has passed.
It can be frustrating when dill starts to flower because you want to enjoy fresh leaves for longer. I wrote an article about pruning dill, which helps to delay flowering and promotes new growth on your plants. You can also stagger your seed sowing, so that you have a continuous harvest. Then it doesn’t matter if some plants go to seed sooner than others. You can also look for slower-to-bolt or “late flowering” varieties, like ‘Elephant’.
Using your dill seeds for cooking
Like coriander and fennel, dill seeds are sold whole in jars. But like basil and parsley, the leaves are ground up and sold as a whole different spice. The dried leaves are usually labeled as dill weed. Dill seeds look a little bit like caraway seeds (both are members of the Apiaceae family), but dill are more petal shaped than the curved arc of a caraway seed.
The seeds can be used for flavoring a variety of dishes, like borscht and other soups, various vegetable dishes, like cabbage, as well as pickles, brines, salad dressings, and other condiments.
Some cooks will use a mortar and pestle to grind the seeds up, but often a recipe will call for them to be thrown in as is. They can also be toasted to enhance their flavor.
More seed saving tips
- Harvesting milkweed pods
- Saving seeds from veggies and flowers
- Seed-saving advice
- Collecting bean seeds
- Four seed-saving tips
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